plate 1

illustration 6
Many of the earliest large pile woven storage bags, called chuval, the Turkmen produced have a decorated elem, or panel, at the bottom where the bag sat on the ground inside the yurt. Invariably small, simply articulated, plant forms were placed in staggered rows, usually three, on these elem.

The lotus and its association with a deity, either sitting on or depicted nearby, is an ancient one and not exclusively Chinese, as we find similar representations throughout ancient Egypt as well as in other parts of the Near East. So while it is impossible to determine where this originated, it is obvious it was probably carried along the silk route and, of course, the Turkmen would have been privy to it as well.

Another important point that bears mention is the amuletic function, talismanic power and spiritual meaning that was embedded, and culturally recognized, in Turkmen knotted-pile weaving. These beliefs were still very active and prevalent even in the later 19th and early 20th century when the reports of Russian and other researchers who did extensive ethnographic field work in Turkmenistan recorded such beliefs.

And while this author is unwilling to accept the idea the information gathered by these post-1880 researchers can be extrapolated to explain far earlier cultural trends, we do recognize in this instance these findings imply such beliefs were also active and present during earlier time-periods. The fact most of the iconography on these later examples was directly derived from, and or closely related to, that found on archaic/classic period knotted-pile weaving establishes a concrete basis for this connection.

Ethnographic research has proven later Turkmen groups believed many elements of their design vocabulary carried supernatural power and implication the same connotations were also prevalent centuries earlier is not any great leap of faith.

Patterns of significance like those utilized by the Turkmen, especially in the archaic period, were surely not accidently developed, nor did they accidently end up on such complex, valuable, highly specialized and difficult to produce artworks. The fact these same icons also appear on later weavings and were said to have special power more than implies this was always the case.

And although this interpretation is far from positive, let’s now examine some other relationships to see if they can better substantiate this.


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